Moments after officially announcing the resignation of former Tennessee basketball head coach Cuonzo Martin in a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Athletic Director Dave Hart flipped his attention to the immediate present.
With the regular period of National Signing Day beginning Wednesday, securing the four signees of the Volunteers' 2014 recruiting class — point guard Larry Austin, power forward Phillip Cofer, shooting guard Jordan Cornish and power forward C.J. Turman — instantly becomes a top priority.
"We reached out to the four prospects and tried to reassure all of them we know it's tough," Hart said. "You're 17 to 22 years old, and you get a surprise. They did not expect that we would be dealing with a transition today.
"So that's difficult for them, and we've reassured them that we understand that."
By extending a welcoming hand of comfort and encouragement, Hart believes that establishes the most positive environment for the signees as they begin to process Martin's resignation and the ensuing hire.
"My door is open," Hart said. "(Executive Senior Assistant Athletic Director) John Gilbert's door is open. They should come to us, call us. We've got all their numbers — they know how to reach us. We'll be happy to have those conversations with them, and to any extent possible, (we'll) keep them in the loop of the search process."
When Martin was hired in March 2011, a pair of signees — Chris Jones and Kevin Ware — were released from their National Letter of Intent and eventually transferred elsewhere.
But for the second men's basketball coaching search in a just more than three years, Hart isn't preparing for the same from the 2014 quartet.
"We're not even in any of those conversations right now," Hart said. "... We fully expect those young men to be a part of our basketball program."
Cornish, a three-star prospect from New Orleans who signed with the Vols on Nov. 13, was the first signee to break silence, penning a message on Twitter just a few hours after Hart's press conference concluded.
No taking any calls or text about the current situation! Taking it day by day , if you need me contact my parents— Jordan Cornish (@JordanCornish5_) April 15, 2014
"No taking any calls or text about the current situation!," Cornish tweeted at 4:12 p.m. on Tuesday. "Taking it day by day, if you need me contact my parents."
UT, however, have already lost one commit out of their 2014 class via Twitter when Kingsley Okoroh announced that he would be following Martin to Cal.
The 7-foot-1, 250-pound center from Westwind Preparatory Academy in Phoenix committed to UT on Monday afternoon but switched less than hour after Martin's decision initially broke.
I want to thank The University Of Tennessee and the fans for your support unfortunately I announce my de-commitment from Tennessee— Kingsley Okoroh (@Kingokoroh) April 15, 2014
"I want to thank The University Of Tennessee and the fans for your support unfortunately I announce my de-commitment from Tennessee," Okoroh's tweeted at 2:02 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.
Just two minutes later, he issued a follow-up.
I announce my commitment to the University of California Berkeley. I'm very excited to be a BEAR !— Kingsley Okoroh (@Kingokoroh) April 15, 2014
"I announce my commitment to the University of California Berkeley. I'm very excited to be a BEAR!"